Curious Nature: A day in the life of a baby beaver

Tayler Branson
Curious Nature
Beavers are a keystone species and create habitat for many kinds of creatures like birds, bugs, and toads.
Courtesy photo

As the morning sun rises over the rocky horizon, you find yourself cuddled up with your family. Mom, Dad, and siblings all stretch into the new day, but you being the baby of the family, you get a few more minutes of shut-eye. You are a baby beaver, a kit, huddled against the cold frost that tries to permeate the den you call home. It’s going to be a long day, but your family will show you the ropes and care for you every step of the way.

The first thing all baby beavers need to know is that Mom and Dad are committed to the family. You have been able to see their devotion to one another ever since you were born, with eyes wide open, ready to take on the pond. Your parents share responsibility for you and your siblings, putting in equal effort to nurture and provide for the colony. The parents are going to be busy today, so your older siblings, the yearlings, will take care of you. It is important that you spend as much time as possible learning from them since next year they will leave the den in search of starting their own families. Your oldest brother, Brother Beaver, will take you out first.

Brother is all about playtime and he says having fun is the best way for beavers to learn about the world around them. You chase each other around until reaching the underwater stockpile of sticks that have been stored beneath the layer of ice above you. Using your hands you are able to carry enough for breakfast and Brother teaches you that your body was specially designed for the water. By closing a special flap in your mouth, you learn to carry even more sticks between your teeth without having water rush into your mouth. This will certainly come in handy next time the dam requires repairs.

Once you arrive back at the den, your older sister starts to groom you. She grooms you every day so you know how to take the oils you secrete and use them to waterproof your coat. After waterproofing, she takes your paw and whisks you away.

Sister is the brains of the family, a real gnaw-it-all, and she thinks you have not been keeping your teeth down.

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“As the largest rodent in North America,” she explains, “our teeth grow especially long and they never stop growing. We always need to find wood to gnaw on to maintain our teeth.”

You two swim to the edge of the bank to her favorite log to chew on and the swim there helps you practice holding your breath underwater. One day you will be able to make the entire 15-minute swim without stopping for a breath, but today you surface the water before joining her again.

Back at the den, Mom and Dad are waiting for the kids. Dad warns about the dangers of predators on land. Mom is a bit more “go with the flow” — she wants you all to know that the work we do each day is not just for our own benefit. She says, “We are a keystone species and we create habitat for many kinds of creatures like birds, bugs, and toads. We have a duty to protect our family because we make life possible for so many others.”

Any beaver is lucky to have such a loving family dynamic. It is important to soak up the messages from your family because next year, you will be teaching, playing with, grooming, and snuggling new sibling kits.

Tayler Branson is the lead naturalist at Walking Mountains Science Center and she loves her family just like beavers love theirs.


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